What turned me on to this book, was actually Patterson’s other book Witch and Wizard. There was a free iPod app where you could get a free excerpt, that I began reading and liked (but didn’t want to buy the book while it was only sold in hardcover since I didn’t like it that much), so I decided to try out one of his other books instead (while I waited).
Maximum Ride is sort of like James Cameron’s Dark Angel (even has the same name for the main character!), if you remember that TV show. (Interestingly, Patterson says he actually took it from a different book he wrote with a main character named Max, though the two books are not related.) It follows a bunch of kids who were raised as test subjects in a lab. They were genetically engineered so that their DNA was combined with a bird’s (unlike Max in DA, whose DNA was combined with a cat). One of the things this genetic combination does is provide main character Max, and her small “family” with wings that allows them to fly. They are also much stronger than the average adult, despite being kids. And, they have other, stranger abilities, such as mind reading and voice mimicry, among other things (there seems to be no rhyme or reason to who has what ability, but I suppose we learn more about that in later books. Book 1 of this series follows Max (the de facto leader) and her five mutant siblings as they try to hide from the people who created them, when the youngest, Angel, is captured by the Erasers (half-wolf, half-human mutants) and brought back to the lab, called the School. The rest of the flock is determined to rescue Angel and discover more about themselves, like if they had parents and where they are from and how long they can expect to survive. But some things they may not be ready to learn–like who betrayed them and Max’s “destiny” to save the world.
Patterson does an excellent job of mixing the child-like confusion and emotions of our heroes with strength and determination, making them kids we can’t help but root for. Each of the kids has unique abilities and somewhat distinct personalities (though some more than others, which is not surprising when you have so many main characters) that are likable. You can’t help but root for them. But he also does a good job of adding a spark of humanity into some of the villains, so that while you hope they lose, you also feel a little bit bad. (I would have appreciated a little more of an insight into Ari’s character, but I’m glad we got a glimpse.)
Perhaps my biggest complaint with the book would be its structure. Before the book begins, there is a letter addressed to the reader, written by Max, warning us about what we will read and how important she feels it is that we read it anyway. 85% of the book follows in first person fashion, from Max’s perspective, but on occasion, the book jumps to third person to allow it to follow the characters who are not with Max at the moment. While I agree that those parts of the book are best included, I do not like the jump of perspective. I would prefer to simply follow the entire thing in third person or have him figure out a way to keep it first person throughout. As far as things go, it’s a pretty small complaint because even though it bothered me intellectually, it didn’t really ruin the flow of the book.
From the segments I’ve read of Witch and Wizard, I find this to be the more compelling read and cannot wait to see where the adventure goes.